BEACON FALLS — For a state tournament qualifying-round game, the Woodland baseball team had the odds stacked against them.
The No. 32-seeded Hawks hosted No. 33 Plainville, the defending Class M champion, on Sunday. They played without their starting shortstop and one of their best hitters, Dave Uhl, and faced pitcher Matthew Thomas, who won last year’s state final.
Neither boded well for Woodland, which recorded only three hits and allowed four unearned runs in a 6-0 season-ending defeat.
Junior left-hander Tanner Kingsley started on the mound for the Hawks (8-13) and gave up just four hits, with only two of Plainville’s six runs being earned. Junior righty Anthony D’Agnone pitched scoreless relief, but as Woodland coach Mike Kingsley said, even one run would have been enough to beat the Hawks on Sunday.
“We sucked it up, the kids played hard and we gained some valuable experience,” Kingsley said. “The pitchers pitched pretty well for us. But it wouldn’t have mattered because we couldn’t really hit their guy.”
Tanner Kingsley had two of Woodland’s three hits; Sam Merriman had the other. Kingsley was one of only three Hawks, along with Uhl and Anthony Scirpo, to finish the season with batting averages over .300.
Mike Kingsley said this year’s struggles weren’t for a lack of effort, though.
“By far, this group of kids worked harder than any group I’ve had,” he said. “There was no quit in these guys. They gave everything they had all the time. As a coach you can’t ask any more than that. We just had to make more plays. They worked their butts off and it didn’t go our way.”
Uhl’s injury in practice last week didn’t help Woodland’s chances. He was the team’s starting shortstop for two seasons and had moved into the No. 3 hole in the lineup by the end of the season. Uhl injured his knee during practice less than a week before the tournament game.
“Losing David was a big loss,” Kingsley said. “It forced me to take Scirpo out of the leadoff hole and into the No. 3 hole, and bring Mike Kenney to leadoff. Scirpo was getting on and David was driving him in, and that’s when we started making our move during the season.”
Woodland will lose five seniors, who were all captains. Uhl, Scirpo, Steve Baeder, Anthony Ross and Nick Brown were all multi-year starters. Several underclassmen will return, including the Hawks’ entire pitching staff of Kingsley, D’Agnone, Everett Miner and others.
“We came into the season with great senior leadership in the order and we were doubtful of our young pitching staff. Now next year we’re going to come back with a veteran pitching staff and a young team in the field,” Kingsley said. “It will be the polar opposite next year. Three seniors on the mound next year, and that’s as good a three as we’ll have since I’ve been here.”
Merriman, a sophomore, played 20 games in the infield. Several underclassmen, including Matt Butterworth and Joe Poeta, shared time at second base. Kenney, a two-year starter, will be a junior and Jared Grillo earned plenty of at-bats as a freshman. Catcher Mike Gondola, who Kingsley said “did a great job” this season, will be a senior.
This year, the Hawks were close more often than not. They lost five games by two runs or fewer and gave up leads in others.
“It comes down to putting a complete game together,” Kingsley said. “It seemed like when we pitched well and played good defense, our bats were quiet. When we hit well, we didn’t pitch well or play good defense. We weren’t really able to put together many complete games this season. We never could get in a rhythm.”